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Macro and close up tips for photographing insects such as bees and butterflies


Like most digital SLR photographers, some of the first things I wanted to photograph after purchasing my Canon macro lens , was bee's and butterflies. After much frustration and thousands of shots later, I finally realised the trick to photographing flying insects, wasn't to focus on the actual insect, but rather where you know it is most likely to land next.

Take this photograph of a bee below for example. At first, I was quickly following the bee around trying to focus and snap a photo before it moved again. This particlular bee was quite a busy fellow and moved around a lot. After viewing hundreds of pictures on my digital cameras LCD screen, I realised they were all blured and I didn't have one focused image. It was then, I sat quietly and watched the bee to see what flower it liked to feed from the most. I then put my camera on a tripod and focused on that one flower. It wasn't long before the bee landed on the flower and I was able to use my remote release to fire off a few well focused images.


example of flying insect photo bee

Photograph Of A Bee

Digital SLR Camera: Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi
DSLR Lens: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro
Exposure: 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture: f/4.5
Focal Length: 100 mm
ISO Speed: 100
Exposure Program: manual

Why this image worked

I focused the digital SLR camera on the flower instead of following the bee around like a crazy photographer. The exposure (shutter speed) also has to be fast enough to capture any slight movement of the flying insect.

In this case, a shutter speed of 1/200 was sufficient enough to capture the bee effectively. Furhermore, an aperture of f/4.5 created a nice depth of field (blurring of the background) that excluded any unnecessary objects behind the bee and the flower from appearing in the photograph.


photograph of a butterfly feeding on polon

Macro butterfly feeding on polon

Digital SLR Camera: Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi
DSLR Lens: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro
Exposure: 0.003 sec (1/320)
Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 100 mm
ISO Speed: 100
Exposure Program: manual

Why this image worked

Again, I focused digital SLR camera on the flower and not on the actual butterfly. In this case, I was lucky to be taking photographs of butterflies when there were literally hundreds of them flying around. Therefore, I was able to easily focus my digital camera on a flower that was getting a lot of attention, so my chances of capturing one landing was high. As with the first example of the bee, this shot also required a fast exposure (shutter speed) of 1/320 of a second and a relatively low aperture number of f/5.6 to blur any background elements.



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